Saturday, 7 June 2014

The indiscriminate Spirit

Numbers 11:24-30
So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent. Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again.
 Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!” But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord ’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!” And Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.

John 20:19-23
Jesus Appears to the Disciples
 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

In the Church of Scotland, as Presbyterians, we are known for our good order and decorum.
That is a part of our heritage, however it happens to be played out in individual congregations.
A few weeks ago, a visitor to Castlehill, on looking at the order of service decided that we must be fairly High church, given that we have a processional hymn and a recessional hymn and that we sing the Gloria Patri.
I explained that we are good at making a high church liturgy friendly for participants!
But I wonder how true that is?
I was conscious, especially last week, when we celebrated communion, that we do little by way of explanation.
Today, we celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism - again a ritual with which some have become familiar but others not so much.
The sacraments will always contain an element of mystery, something that is beyond us.
That's as it should be.
But these symbols of the amazing grace of God should also be very accessible to all of us.
They are God's gifts to us.
We indulge in rituals and expect folks, from wherever they come, to anticipate what we know and to fit in accordingly.
And so the very things that Jesus gave us, bread and wine and water,symbols by which we remember the love of God, instead of drawing us together, as Jesus intended, become the things that divide us.
A simple meal of bread and wine - by which we remember Jesus dying for us.
And the gift of water, by which we remember that all are welcome, even children too young to respond to the gift of God's unconditional love.
Ordinary things, bathed in God's spirit,symbolising eternal mysteries.

We're known, here in Castlehill, as a friendly, welcoming church, of which we should be rightly proud, but there's always room for improvement, isn't there?
And,perhaps, especially in our worship rituals, there is a need to explain ourselves better and embrace and involve others more fully.
Embracing others involves accepting the gifts that others bring and finding a way for those gifts to be used and incorporated into our life together.
While we might want to congratulate ourselves on our friendly openness to others, can we extend that welcome to allowing others to serve - in their own unique way?
We often have fairly precise and fixed ideas of just how things should be done, the standards and traditions that must be kept.
Are we inclusive enough to allow those dearly held standards to be adjusted, even compromised so that others are also given the opportunity to serve?
Don't we all know that the way we do a particular thing is simply the best way
And, when we allow others to help out, they too must be shown our way?!
When Moses complained to God that he had no help in leading God's people, God asked him to select 70 elders together, to be consecrated and set apart for service.
The elders were instructed to purify themselves and prepare for this act of setting apart when the Spirit of God would be shared with them.
When the day came, 2 of the elders selected remained in the camp, while the others met with Moses and received their share of the Spirit of God and they began to prophesy.
However, the 2 who remained in the camp also received the Spirit and began to prophesy, much to the chagrin of others.
Why should they receive the gift of God's Spirit when they hadn't jumped through all the hoops and done all that was required?
Why,when they had remained in camp,should they receive the gift of the Spirit too?
Then, as now, God's Spirit is not in short supply.
It is not a limited commodity.
The Spirit of God is shared today with all who want to receive.
Freely and abundantly.
And who are we to seek to limit that gift of the Spirit in any way?

On Friday, I was involved in worship with some colleagues.
We read one of the Pentecost passages in lots of different languages.
We did that here in Castlehill one time, using just a few languages but carefully synchronised, in good order.
That wasn't the way it was done on Friday - everyone spoke at their own pace, some slow, some fast, some quiet, some loud. 
It was noisy and messy.
Quite disturbing really.
Just a taste of what it must have been like that first Pentecost when the Spirit came.
Noisy and messy.
Just like it must have been, as we read in our gospel, when the disciples huddled together in a locked room because they were afraid.
Jesus came and stood among them and said: Peace be with you.
Jesus breathed peace into the noise and the fear.
Jesus breathed his Spirit into his disciples and asked them to go and share the good news.
To take the peace that only Jesus could give and share it with the world.
That same Jesus stands in our midst today.
That same Jesus breathes his Spirit into us and asks us to go and share his peace in the world.
Share peace with our friends and neighbours.
Share peace with our communities.
Share peace with those who are afraid today.
Those who fear for their families, for themselves, for their jobs, for their homes, those who fear they will not have enough to eat.
Jesus breathes his Spirit into us and sends us to take that Spirit with us and to share, bringing relief from fear, bringing peace to the world today.
There is no right way or wrong way to do that.
There is no order or protocol.
The Spirit of God comes to us, whoever we are.
We take it from here to share without fear.
Gods Spirit is in you.
Go from here and bring peace, wherever, however you can.
God's Spirit is in you.
Go - share the peace of God.
For the glory of God.


Terri said...

The spirit blows where she blows...thank you for sharing this sermon.

Terri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.